Four discoveries by McGill University researchers placed in the top 10 discoveries by Quebec researchers in 2011, ranked by Quebec Science Magazine in its February 2012 issue.
The discoveries span a range of research fields from earth sciences to medicine. Assistant professor Laura Stone and her team from the faculty of dentistry conducted research at the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain. Their research focused on the relationship between patients with chronic back pain and the corresponding regions in the brain which are subject to premature aging as a result of the pain.
“Up until [now] people thought that maybe the cells were all dying,” Stone explained. However, her research revealed that after undergoing surgery for back pain, a subset of patients had dramatic improvements, and consequently the changes in the brain were reversed. Moreover, the degree to which the aging was reversed often corresponded to the decrease in pain achieved by the surgery.
From the Faculty of Medicine, Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Research Institute, Vassilios Papadopoulos and his team developed a blood test which could potentially diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. This blood test would allow for earlier detection and treatment of the disease.
Orthopedic surgeons Paul Martineau and Edward Harvey from the faculty of medicine and the McGill University Health Centre collaborated with Louis-Philippe Lefebvre of the National Research Council of Canada to patent a new screw to treat broken bones. This screw, made from titanium foam, would replace the current stainless steel screws used for bone injury, thus allowing patients to heal faster.
Finally, from the department of Earth and planetary sciences and the faculty of science, Alfonso Mucci and his collaborators performed an in-depth evaluation of the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf. They evaluated the acidification levels of the bottom waters beginning from the 1930s up to today. In doing so, they established the vulnerability of the St. Lawrence waters and the impact on the local marine environment.
Stone spoke on the importance of awards like this, which bring current scientific discoveries to the attention of Quebecers.
“I think it’s a great honour to have been selected,” Stone said. “I think it’s great that the magazine does this because it raises awareness. There’s really good science happening in Quebec and the fact that they do this just really makes people aware of that and builds public support for research.”
As the public ultimately funds this scientific research, Stone feels that public support and awareness is crucial. “It’s important … that there’s ways to communicate back to the public some of the progress that’s being made.”
She added that, for McGill, these results demonstrate their strong research program across many different fields.
Other schools with discoveries listed in the top 10 include École Polytechnique, Université de Montreal, Université du Quebec in Abiti-Témiscamingue, and Laval University. Readers can vote on Quebec Science’s website for the year’s number one discovery.